Fitness standards are among several requirements for recruits entering the military that may become more relaxed, allowing a greater chance for admission.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the review Tuesday in a speech to reserve officer training corps cadets at the City College of New York, Military Times reported. In addition to fitness standards, marijuana use, tattoo regulations and the military’s reluctance to allow single parents to start military careers are under examination, according to the report.
“Some of these things we’ll never be able to compromise on,” Carter said. “And we will always have to maintain high standards. But at the same time, these benchmarks must be kept relevant for both today’s force and tomorrow’s, meaning we have to ensure they’re not unnecessarily restrictive.”
An estimated 70 percent of today’s youth are ineligible for military service based on traditional standards related to health, education and past misconduct, according to the report. A senior defense official familiar with the review efforts acknowledged the obesity epidemic in today’s society but refuted the notion that a change in standards for entering boot camp would lead to lowering expectations in the operational force.
“Fitness does matter in the service,” the senior defense official told Military Times. “But one of the responsibilities that we have when we bring people in is to make them fit, if they are not already. We have to judge whether, if we have [an individual with] a fitness problem, is it a fitness problem in which they are not going to be able to achieve our standards? Or is it a fitness problem where we can help them through it and they can meet our standards?”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Marine Corps announced changes to its physical fitness program, including changes to some standards that have been in place for 44 years. The Marines also are completing a five-week Force Fitness Instructor (FFI) Course that will allow noncommissioned officers to help leaders develop their units’ physical training programs. The first class of FFI students is scheduled to graduate Thursday, according to the Marines.